Steven C. Marshall, 58, musician and sound engineer

May 19, 2006|By NICOLE FULLER | NICOLE FULLER,SUN REPORTER

Steven C. Marshall, a sound engineer who played guitar with Stevie Wonder, worked to decipher a partially erased Watergate-era recording of President Richard M. Nixon and restored the audio for re-releases of the classic films The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind, died of melanoma May 6 at his home in Woodbine. He was 58.

Mr. Marshall was born in Baltimore. After his parents divorced, he moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., and lived on a Pima Indian reservation with his mother. He graduated from the American School in Lugano, Switzerland, and studied fine arts at what is now Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, dropping out after two years.

Mr. Marshall taught himself to play keyboards and guitar and worked as a studio musician in Europe during the 1960s.

In the early '70s, he invented the Marshall Time Modulator, a delay processor he said "bends time," allowing singers to alter their voices. It was used to create Darth Vader's voice in the Star Wars movies.

The device got him hired by Wonder to work on his album Songs in the Key of Life and eventually led to several jobs working with major Hollywood movie studios restoring sound on classic movies.

He worked on the invention, which earned him millions, he told The Sun in 2001, while living in a "cheap little house in Joppatowne."

"I thought it was a prank; I hung up several times. I thought it was a friend playing with me, but he kept calling back," Mr. Marshall said of the first calls he received from Stevie Wonder.

Mr. Marshall in 1995 founded Baltimore-based Intelligent Devices Inc., which sells computer software to police agencies and government officials that helps enhance muffled voices captured on tape - "speech extraction."

It is this technology that propelled him - as a member of a National Archives committee - to advocate vigorously for the use of an advanced machine to read erased remnants of sound on Tape No. 342, recorded June 21, 1972, three days after the break-in at Democratic National Committee Headquarters. Nixon's secretary erased a portion of the tape, and the 18 1/2 minutes of near-silence had intrigued historians and political watchers for decades.

In the 2001 interview with The Sun, Mr. Marshall, who used the stage name Stephen St. Croix, made his case for making an effort to uncover what was under the silence.

"I've certainly been the guy kicking up the dust. And yes, if it turns out nobody can do it, it's my fault; I've wasted everybody's time. On the other hand, how can you not try? Who knows? We might get the most incriminating thing you evert heard in American history, or we may get Nixon asking for pineapple on his pizza."

Mr. Marshall's idea was rejected in 2003.

Mr. Marshall's first marriage, to Ann Murray, ended in divorce.

About eight years ago, he met his second wife, Teresa Marshall, a co-owner of a veterinary clinic in Catonsville.

"He was the most amazing, least jaded, most curious person I've ever know," she said yesterday. "He never rested on what he knew. He was always pushing the envelope."

Mr. Marshall's ashes are to be scattered in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, as he had requested, his wife said.

Mr. Marshall is also survived by his mother, Shirley Stevenson of Peoria, Ariz.; his stepmother, Margaret Taylor Marshall of Baltimore; and three brothers, Gray Marshall of Venice, Calif., Andrew Marshall of Seattle and Bradley Marshall of Baltimore. His father, Dr. Curtis Marshall, a neurologist, died in 2001.

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